Phillip Dorsett, a free-agent wide receiver, eyes chance to be a starter

Phillip Dorsett on his ideal scenario as a free agent: "Obviously, I want to be a key contributor, I want to be a starter, that's always been my goal." Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett endeared himself to coach Bill Belichick and many in the New England Patriots organization over the past two seasons, and the feeling is mutual as Dorsett has positive things to say about the experience.

As for what that means in free agency, Dorsett isn't sure.

"They obviously traded for me two years ago. They took me in and I loved my experience in New England. They made [me] a way better football player than I was before. I learned so much," he told ESPN.com, reflecting on being swapped by the Indianapolis Colts for quarterback Jacoby Brissett in September 2017.

"The biggest thing I loved is how hard they work. That's my motto. I feel like you get out what you put in, and we worked really hard in New England. I love that. Obviously, I would love to continue, but at the end of the day, you never know. I've never been through this process. I don't know what the future holds for me. I'm just enjoying it right now."

Dorsett, who has escaped New England's winter and is now back in South Florida, relayed that he began workouts one week after Super Bowl LIII. He said it was his intention to wait a bit longer, but he was motivated to "get back into [it]" while "doing what my body was telling me to do."

The 2015 first-round draft pick (No. 29) out of the University of Miami has an idea of what would be his ideal scenario as a free agent.

"Obviously, I want to be a key contributor. I want to be a starter. That's always been my goal," he said.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Dorsett started four games over the past two seasons for the Patriots, with his primary value coming more in a backup role. He had to adjust on the fly in 2017, not having the benefit of an offseason to learn the team's system, which limited his contributions on the stat sheet that year (12 receptions, 194 yards).

In 2018, Dorsett played a lot early in the season when Julian Edelman was serving a four-game NFL suspension and Josh Gordon had yet to be acquired and emerge, before fading somewhat into the background. But whenever the team needed him, he seemed to deliver, finishing with 32 receptions for 290 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, ultimately playing 36 percent of the offensive snaps. He added seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown in five playoff games.

"It was difficult, honestly; being thrust into a starting position, working your butt off, and being there and trying to be reliable for your team, and then taking a back seat," he said. "I'm a team player and I knew that whatever Bill's decision was, it was going to benefit the team. I'm not a guy that's going to go out and complain. I'm just going to do my job, keep working hard, and make sure I'm ready every day mentally and physically."

Dorsett felt rewarded for that approach based on the way the season ended with a victory in Super Bowl LIII.

"I loved it. A lot of ups, a lot of downs, but at the end of the day when it got to the end of the season, we won the ultimate prize," he said. "I felt like we dealt with the year the best we could. We just put our head down and kept grinding. That was kind of the theme of the whole season -- just keep working hard, the team loves one another, plays for one another, and at the end of the day that's the only thing that matters."

That's one reason Dorsett hasn't ruled out a possible return to the Patriots, and he believes the interest in mutual.

Of Belichick, he said, "Me and him have a good relationship. I believe he wants me back, I do believe that. At the end of the day, you really never know. I'm going in with blinders. I don't really know what's going to happen. ...

"Obviously, I want to win. I don't want to play this game just to play it. I play because I love it, and the relationships. The whole organization was just amazing. Obviously, everyone has their personal goals and I do want to be a bigger role, that's just the kind of guy I am. And helping the team win."